1. Has everyone forgotten how to count? If I hear one more time that we're in a new decade, I'll go bananas. When you count your fingers, do you start with 0? No. You start with ONE. 1 - 10, 11 - 21, etc. 2011 is the next decade. This is the LAST year of the "Aughts." I feel better getting that off my chest.
2. I have a request for those of you participating in my coins project, but I'm feeling very overwhelmed with my own To Do list, so give me a bit to organize that and I'll give it its own post. (And I've received packages from a few of you already, and it's so lovely and very exciting!)
But today I want to post about delicious, fantastico, muy muy bueno tamales. Growing up in Texas, they're a dime a dozen. (Well, times 70. If you didn't catch the math, that makes it 7 bucks. *g*) If you get quality meat in them, say venison or wild pork, it's more like 12 dollars a dozen (tamales are typically chicken or pork.) Making them? Priceless-- well, no, my total bill was less than 20 bucks for supplies, but I made 8 dozen, with loads of supplies left. (The meat came from a recent hunting expidition by the Mister.)
I don't mean to brag (that's a lie, I totally mean to) but I was told by a few people that were not strong-armed by me that these were the best tamales they'd ever had. If I may, this was my first time ever making them by myself, as well. They were so worth the effort.
You should know that these are a two day process, first of all, and second of all, these are better to make with a helper monkey. Traditionally, they are made on Christmas Eve - all of the mujeres get together in a family and work all day. (Who ever is hosting Christmas would have cooked the meat the day before.) They'll make 20 dozen or so, eat some on Christmas and freeze the rest, sending wrapped bundles of yum home with each woman that contributed. Good luck making them last until February. :)
Since I am not Hispanic, I didn't follow the same tradition, but I did cook them in the old school way. And by that I mean I got Aztec on these mofos. (Note: tamales are like chicken soup. Everyone has their own unique recipe. They're traditionally filled with a meat, but some of my favorites have also had corn and black beans in them. Shrimp and jalapeño tamales are pretty fantastico, but rare in my region.)
These are pretty healthy, too, so throw your conventions out the window. (I mean, it's not a salad but there's very little fat here.) And don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients and that it takes two days. Or, whatever, be intimidated and impressed by me. Ha. (My daughter took the pics, so they're a bit... rough. But they'll do as a demo.)
TAMALE INGREDIENT LIST
8 pounds of meat (I used a pork butt from a wild boar this time around. I've got another batch to be made today with 3/4 wild boar and 1/4 chicken breasts)
64 ounces of water (I have a giant pyrex measuring cup)
2 cubes chipotle bouillon (a must. Order from here if you can't find it in your local grocery store. They're a buck 25 in my store)
1/2 minced onion (I use dehydrated - it thickens the broth)
2 TBSP garlic powder
2 TBSP cumin
4 TBSP chili powder
2 triangles Ibarra chocolate (if you don't have this, substitute with a block of unsweetened baking chocolate + 2 dashes each of cinnamon and cayenne pepper - I had to for batch 2) This is going old school, yo. Mmm, chocolate in Mexican food = DELICIOUS.
salt as needed
beef broth for thinning, if needed (you could also use water and add to the original amount as the meat cooks)
MaSeCa flour - Masa harina, a 4 lb bag (you'll make two batches of this masa, using up the whole bag, btw)
1 TBSP paprika
2 TBSP salt
1 TBSP cumin
2 TBSP chili powder
1 TBSP garlic powder
2 C. corn oil
2 - 3 C broth from the meat
warm water for thinning dough
corn husks (usually found dried)
Biiiiiiig ol' bowl for mixing
Biiiiiiig ol' pot for cooking (I used a 7 qt. dutch oven)
Biiiiiiig ol' bowl for shredding
Bii- do you spot a trend? Big steamer, must be 8 inches deep, minimum
Most importantly, you need a helper monkey in the form of a willing child, husband, or well-fed neighbor (so they won't be starving and take all of your tamales home as payment. But do send them home with some, you selfish jerk. Jeez.)
DAY ONE: MEAT
cube the meat into golf ball sized chunks - don't worry too much about trimming off the fat. It'll be taken off after it's cooked (and the fat helps the flavor.)
(please note that Sally Derg is acting like she's totally not interested AT ALL in raw meat. She hovered for two days waiting for bits to fall. Looking just to the right of me the whole time. Hahaha. Dogs are rad.)
Chop the chocolate and put in your big ol' pot, add the seasonings and a big splash of the water. Turn on the burner and heat up the seasonings, whisking to get the chocolate to melt into the mix.
Add the meat, cover with water - I have a 7 qt. dutch over and used 64 ounces. As the water cooked off, I added more - almost 32 ounces. You could also substitute beef broth for this last bit, and mix it in at the end, whatever floats your boat. You need to end up with 6 cups of liquid after cooking.
Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to let simmer for a minimum of 2 hours - I let mine go for 3 1/2 hours to make sure the flavors really get in there. You want it to be fork tender at the end and the broth to be thickened.
Pour off the broth and SAVE THIS - don't worry about skimming the fat. We're going to let science be our friend on this one. Drain the meat and set aside to cool. Once cool, shred pretty finely. I pull any fat that stayed off and toss it at this point. I find that very effective. I'm also slightly OCD, so take that as you will. (I hate biting into something and getting a chunk of fat. BLECH.)
Season the shredded meat with chipotle Tabasco and salt to taste. (I used half a big bottle of Tabasco on the cooked meat. Nom.) I added a little more cumin and chili powder, too, because that's how I like it - spicy (say, 1 TBSP of each? I hope you bought the big containers...)
Put in that big ol' bowl, cover, and stick in the refrigerator next to the broth you saved. (You saved it, right? you HAVE to save it.) Pour yourself a drink and revel in your ability to watch something boil. Go kick your husband off the PS3 so you can have a turn at Fallout3. That might be a personal step, it's up to you.
DAY TWO: MASA
Soak the corn husks in a pot, bowl, or sink with water. You'll need to stick something on top to keep them submerged, like the empty wine bottle from last night. I'm not here to judge you. Skim the congealed (bleh, that's a gross word) fat from your broth (yay, science!) and discard. Or whatever you do with fat in your house, again, I'm not here to judge you.
Heat the broth to at least room temperature. You don't want it hot, you want it heated through so you can touch it and it won't be cold. Get out your biggest mixing bowl and add half of the bag of masa - 2 lbs. worth. Make a well and add the seasonings; blend really well. This is key. You don't want to take a big bite of paprika, you catch me? Mix mix mix. Then make a well in the middle.
Add 2 C. of that broth that you lovingly saved and skimmed. Mix well with a spoon, we're almost to hand time. Add 2 C. of corn oil (I prefer this to lard. Lard is grody.) This is probably a good time to give up mixing with a spoon and get to some hand mixing. It feels really good. Squish squish! (And don't even think of using your beautiful Kitchenaid. It'll just bang around and get every where. OLD SCHOOL, folks. We're getting Inca on this stuff.) Add more broth - up to one cup - and warm water to the dough to get it to the consistency of thick peanut butter. It's really sticky, this stuff. But the more moisture you can add to it, it'll get less sticky. Strange, but true. Remember: peanut butter - that thick and spreadable is the end result.
(Note: I ended up adding more liquid after making two or three with this batch. It just needed to be a bit more spreadable. I was going for natural peanut butter in this pic, and I needed it to be Jif. Lol.)
Get your helper monkey to drain the corn husks and CAREFULLY separate them, then put them on a towel and cover to keep damp. These tear easily, so be careful. Also, tell them to make sure there are no corn silks left. Tell them to refill your wine glass, too, and then make sad faces and look exhausted until they comply. Laugh to yourself because it ALWAYS WORKS.
DAY TWO: MAKING
Get your meat, masa, husks, and BIIIIIIG steamer basket in reaching distance, line your helper monkeys up near you and make sure they can reach things, too. Let's get to rolling doobies, I mean, tamales.
Corn husk in your hand, pointy bit pointing away from you.
Grab a golf ball sized amount of masa with your fingers (you can try a spoon. When you give up after several tries, I'll be waiting here. Back already? Okay, get your fingers in there and grab some. Isn't that better?) and slap that on the corn husk on the left side.
Pat that flat and fairly thin to make a rectangle that goes from the bottom up and over to cover the left 2/3 of the husk. You should have a free side and the pointy section - that whole triangle - free of masa.
Grab a TBSP or so (eyeball it) of shredded meat and run that down the middle of the masa
Roll the left side over and help the two edges of masa touch.
This is where rolling your own, erm, cigarettes comes in handy. Work the corn husk in your fingers to seal those two edges, then roll up the husk, trapping the tamale in there.
Try and get it tight, but don't try too hard, you'll tear the husk. (This takes a few to get down, then you'll be a pro in no time.) Pinch the base of the free part where it meets the tamale.
Fold the pointy flap over to keep it closed.
Lay seam/flap side down on your steamer, that you smartly laid on its side. (This keeps them folded and packed nicely, aren't we smarty pants for doing this?)
Repeat forty bazillion times. You don't want to cram the last tamales in the steamer, there needs to be a little room for the steam to work through.
(this was batch two - you might notice a ball of foil in the upper left corner. That's because I didn't have enough in this batch to fill up my giant steamer. That kept everything upright and packed in nicely.)
Steam the tamales for an hour and change. After an hour or so, pull one out of the steamer, set on the counter for a minute or two, and unwrap. The masa should appear firm and cooked (it will still be moist, but darker and firmer) if it is, they're all done. If it's not, leave them on a bit longer. Some batches took me one hour and ten minutes, another batch took almost 2 hours. It's just goofy some times.
(See how the corn husks are darker and dessicated slightly?)
When cooked, eat up! Or let cool, wrap TIGHTLY in foil, then in ziplock bags (or a vacuum sealer if you have one) and label. These babies will last for a year in the freezer. That is, if you are a crazy person. There's no way they'll last more than a month before they get eaten, not in my house at least. (Um, for people not familiar: you don't eat the husk. They're just for steaming. Toss 'em in the compost heap when you eat them. You do store them in the husk, however.)
Note: while the steamer cooked the first batch, I used a smaller steamer to lay the next batch in - then transferred them to the big steamer. That's just how I rolled. Literally. But if you want to take a much deserved break, then by all means, put everything under a tea towel, and chit chat with your helper monkeys until your steamer is free for round two.
This batch made 7.5 dozen, and I wrapped them up in half dozens. I made these on New Year's Day and now only have two dozen left. (I sent my helper monkey home with some. She deserved some. *G*) That's why I'm making more today. This batch is pork and chicken, btw. I might toss some jalapeños in there, too, because we like that sort of thing.
[ETA] I should have mentioned how to reheat the frozen ones! Dampen a paper towel and roll 2 (still in their husks) into the paper towel and microwave for 1 - 2 minutes. Peel the husk off and nom!
This is one of those things that is time sucking but totally worth making. It's not technically difficult, it's totally gratifying to eat, and fun to put some good music on in the background and have a party atmosphere in the kitchen. My kind of fun. (Oh, and we ate the finished project with a dollop of low fat sour cream and salsa verde with refried beans and a salad on the side. OM NOM NOM.)